US Peace Activists in Germany Join Call for Withdrawal of US Nuclear Weapons

Photo by Marion Küpker: Susan Crane of California and Susan van der Hijden of Amsterdam hold a banner near Büchel air force base in Germany.

A group of US peace activists has again joined protests at the Büchel Air Force Base in Germany, demanding the withdrawal of the remaining US hydrogen-bombs still deployed there.

On July 12 the anti-nuclear and anti-war campaigners, together with colleagues from The Netherlands and Germany, began an “International Week” of protests focused on ousting the last approximately 20 US Air Force nuclear gravity bombs known as B61s kept at the base.* In the depths of the cold war, there were 7,000 US nuclear weapons in Germany, so this remnant seems like hardly more than radioactive waste.

With the German group Gewaltfreie Aktion Atomwaffen Abschaffen (Nonviolent Action to Abolish Nuclear Weapons), the US activists will participate in vigils, blockades, and other demonstrations at the gates of the German air base. The group is part of the nation-wide German coalition of over 70 German organizations named “Büchel is Everywhere: Nuclear Weapons-Free Now!” which has three goals: permanent removal of the US nukes; cancellation of plans to replace the US H-bombs with new ones; and German ratification of the 2017 Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.

US participation in this week’s protests is poignant because the air base is home to the US Air Force’s 702nd Munitions Support Squadron, which maintains the thermonuclear weapons known as B61-3s and B61-4s. German pilots flying the Luftwaffe’s PA200 Tornado jet fighters train to use these US gravity bombs against Russia under a controversial “nuclear sharing” agreement with the United States. Previous US delegations joined protests at the base in 2017, 2018, and 2019.

Since the end of the Cold War, surveys show that large majorities of Germans want to be rid of the US H-bombs. Part of the reason is that any nuclear attack on Russia would kill millions of Europeans. Daniel Ellsberg notes in his 2017 book The Doomsday Machine that his work with Pentagon Secretary Robert McNamara in the 1960s revealed that over 500 million fatalities were envisioned in the Pentagon’s anti-Soviet nuclear attack plans. “I recall that the plan called for a total of forty megatons — megatons — on Moscow, about four thousand times more than the bomb over Hiroshima…” Ellsberg wrote.

In Things That Can and Cannot Be Said, by Arundhati Roy and John Cusack, Ellsberg says “…our private, top-secret estimates were that we would kill every European, a hundred million Europeans, without a single US or Soviet warhead landing on West Europe. Just from the fallout of the attacks we were planning on Russia and East Europe. One hundred million …” These estimates of mass self-destruction were known in high places. The parliamentarian (and future chancellor) Helmut Schmidt shouted an alarm then, exclaiming in his 1962 book Defense of Retaliation? that the use of US nuclear weapons “will not defend Europe, but destroy it.”

Still in the pathological grip of nuclear madness, the United States is preparing to replace its current nuclear bombs with the new B61-12 — reportedly costing over $20 million each — the most expensive nuclear weapon ever made by the United States. The US is the only country in the world that arms other countries with its nuclear weapons, and has placed them in Italy, Belgium, Turkey, and The Netherlands. While judges and the right attack participants in nonviolent resistance at the base as scofflaws, the United States and all five countries with the B61s are parties to the 1970 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty which explicitly prohibits nuclear weapons from being transferred to or accepted from other countries.

International Week will include a commemorative action “to break the nuclear chain” Friday July 16th, marking the 76th anniversary of the first atomic bomb detonation at Alamogordo, New Mexico in 1945, and the 42nd anniversary of the 1979 uranium mine waste spill at Church Rock, New Mexico — the largest accidental release of radioactive materials in US history.

“The world wants nuclear weapons abolished,” said US delegate Susan Crane, a long-time peace activist and member of the Redwood City Catholic Worker community in California, pointing to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which entered into force on January 22nd. “To waste billions of dollars replacing the B61s with new ones is outrageous and scandalous, especially considering how many children are in poverty or in need of disaster relief, emergency shelter, food, and safe water,” Crane said.

The delegation includes, Crane, Dennis DuVall formerly of Prescott, Arizona (now living in Germany), Fred Galluccio, of Newport Beach, California, and Brian Terrell, of Maloy, Iowa.

*See De Morgen [Antwerp], “Black and white at last: U.S. nuclear weapons lie in Belgium,” July 16, 2019,

John LaForge is a Co-director of Nukewatch, a peace and environmental justice group in Wisconsin, and edits its newsletter.